Established in 1957, the Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System (APERS) provides pension, retirement and disability benefits for employees who meet its eligibility requirements. While APERS functions as the state’s primary system for public employees, it also offers additional pension and retirement systems. Below we take you through the ins and outs of the Arkansas retirement system. But if you want extra guidance from an expert, use SmartAsset’s matching tool to get paired with a financial advisor in your area who can best meet your needs.
Types of Retirement Systems in Arkansas
The state of Arkansas offers seven different retirement systems with additional retirement programs under certain systems. Under its primary system, APERS, is also the Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP). In addition, though the eligibility requirements generally differ per system, all retirees can receive sizable deductions on retirement income. But which system do you qualify for? Below, we’ve outlined each system’s eligibility requirements to guide your final decision.
|Arkansas Retirement Systems|
|Plan Title||Eligible Employees|
|Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System (APERS)||– Public employees who’ve completed a minimum of five years of service and those employed by active employers of APERS.|
|Arkansas Judicial Retirement System (AJRS)||-All circuit, chancery, court of appeals (whether appointed or elected) qualify for membership.|
|Arkansas Teacher Retirement System (ATRS)||Automatically enrolled are full-time employees of the Department of Correction School, Department of Education General Division, Educational Cooperatives, Educational Television Commission (AETN), public schools, School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, School for the Deaf and ATRS. |
-Employees of colleges and universities, the Department of Workforce Education/ Rehab. Services, Vocational-Technical Schools.
-Employees whose non-teaching service began before July 1, 1989 and whose service is covered or coverable by APERS.
Arkansas State Police Retirement System (ASPRS)
|-Tier One eligibility: Officers hired before April 3, 1997. |
-Tier Two eligibility: Officers hired after April 3, 1997.
|Arkansas State Highway Employees Retirement System (ASHERS)||-Active employees of the Arkansas Department of Transportation qualify.|
|Arkansas Local Police and Fire Retirement System (LOPFI)||-Must be a police officer, firefighter or academy instructor.|
|Arkansas District Judge Retirement System (ADJRS)||– District judges of Arkansas.|
Overview of Arkansas’ Retirement Systems
Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System (APERS) – Eligible employees for this plan receive retirement, disability and death benefits. Offered under APERS are also two additional options: the Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) and Partial Annuity Withdrawal (PAW).
Arkansas Judicial Retirement System (AJRS) – The AJRS pension system, while primarily for those holding judicial offices, contains two tiers of membership. While the eligibility requirements for each vary, both allow members to receive a range of retirement benefits.
Arkansas Teacher Retirement System (ATRS) – For ATRS, your membership depends on your employer. Offered under this system are a range of benefits, including lifetime retirement benefits, disability and death benefits.
Arkansas State Police Retirement System (ASPRS) – ASPRS offers pension and retirement benefits to state officers and contains two tiers of membership. Under ASORS, eligible officers also have the choice to be non-contributory members.
Arkansas State Highway Employees Retirement System (ASHERS) – ASHERS offers eligible employees a range of perks, including early retirement with reduced annuities, disability and death benefits.
Arkansas Local Police and Fire Retirement System (LOPFI) – Established for police officers and firefighters, LOPFI provides various retirement benefits, pension and retirement plans to eligible members.
Arkansas District Judge Retirement System (ADJRS) – ADJRS was transferred to APERS in 2007. However, district judges who entered the system after July 1, 2007 still earn the same benefits as APERS employees.
Retirement Taxes in Arkansas
With a pension plan you’ll be able to contribute pre-tax money toward your retirement savings. In other words, retirement systems, or pension plans, act as tax-advantaged savings accounts. These vehicles allow you to avoid taxes on your retirement-designated contributions. However, any withdrawals, payments or distributions you receive are taxed as income. Depending on your preference, you can either pay the IRS through estimated tax payments or through regular tax withholdings.
The estimated tax option will require you to calculate how much you owe and pay it on a quarterly basis. If you prefer regular withholding installments, however, you’ll have a set amount of income pulled from each check. Furthermore, factors like exemptions will also dictate how much money is pulled from each of your checks.
Finally, you may also be able to rollover your pension funds into an additional retirement account, such as an individual retirement account (IRA). A rollover also functions as an alternative to paying federal taxes on your plan. Specifically, if you rollover to another qualified retirement account, you won’t have to pay taxes on your distributions. However, you’ll have to pay taxes if you make any withdrawals on the money you transferred.
Arkansas is tax-friendly toward retirees, allowing them to build pension funds without taxing them for Social Security. In addition, the state also offers retirees a deduction of up to $6,000 on all forms of retirement income. However, the deductions do come with an age requirement. Retirees must be at least 59.5 years old to receive them.
The deduction represents the total amount of income earned from all accounts and pensions. In other words, you’ll only be able to receive $6,000 maximum even if you have a pension and an IRA. However, married couples, where both spouses have retirement accounts, can claim the deduction twice.
Current Financial Health of the Arkansas Retirement System
Currently holding more than $7 billion in assets, APERS continues to build its contribution financing and total assets. In addition, APERS offers pension to more than 45,000 active members and more than 1,600 retired members.
The majority of its funding comes from investment returns. Specifically, the state system generates its return rates through investments in domestic equities, domestic fixed income, international equities and alternative investments.
APERS suffered an extremely low return rate in 2009 (-20.89%), according to its 2016 Annual Financial Report. However, its return rate significantly increased in 2016. This ultimately improved the performance of its retirement system.
Tips for a Successful Retirement
- The process of opening a pension plan can be tricky. But you can greatly simplify this process with expert advice. This is where a financial advisor can help you map out your financial goals and the steps necessary to reach them. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool can help you find the best advisor suited to your needs.
- It’s also important to consider that location affects the quality of your retirement experience. In other words, different states have different retirement tax requirements and retirement benefits. While some offer retirees generous deductions, others may not. In addition, some states may tax Social Security retirement benefits. That’s why you may want to consider SmartAsset’s list of the most tax-friendly states before settling upon your retirement location. For instance, Arkansas has no estate tax, which is attractive for those looking to pass their wealth on.
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